The launch is part of its non-exclusive distribution deal with functional food firm CTC Group, which will also see the product sold in Colombia.
OptiBiotix's sales and marketing director Christina Wood told NutraIngredients-Asia: "Obesity has become quite an issue in many Asian countries, and there are concerns about its consequences for medical services and the economy over the next 15 years.
"CTC was interested in looking at SlimBiome, as they felt it fit in well with the types of products they had. They had wanted to get into more functional, natural ingredients since the 1990s, so that’s very much where their focus has been.
"Their team in the Philippines, especially, felt it would be a good fit with some of the projects they'd been working on, particularly as it was focused on weight management and weight loss — to help people help themselves lose weight."
Triple impact: Glucomannan, glucose, and gut health
While this is the first time SlimBiome has been released in Asia, it was actually one of OptiBiotix's first products.
Relying heavily on its research into how microbiome modulation could help people lose weight more effectively, the firm developed a formulation designed to have three key effects on the body.
Wood said, "We were looking at why people were overweight — what they were eating and why they were overeating. Most of them do so because they're hungry, so we wanted to put out a product that would help them feel full.
"We also observed that people often fail in calorie-restricted diets because they tend to always feel hungry since their bodies are deprived of energy. So when they do eat, their blood-sugar and insulin levels spike.
"Thirdly, because we focus on the microbiome, we wanted to try to promote healthy gut flora with SlimBiome. This would have a positive impact on the microbiome and the rest of the body, especially metabolism."
Based on these observations, OptiBiotix decided to include the water-soluble fibre glucomannan in its formulation. This ingredient swells upon ingestion in the stomach, giving the user a feeling of fullness that sends a signal to the brain to tell him / her to stop eating.
At the same time, the firm thought it was necessary to help people to regulate the amount of glucose in their bodies, as well as to balance their blood-sugar and insulin levels. This led to the inclusion of a compound, chromium, to help stabilise blood glucose levels, giving the user a feeling of satiety.
According to earlier studies, chromium plays a role in metabolising fats and carbohydrates, and may improve insulin sensitivity, reduce food cravings, increase glucose tolerance, and lower high blood sugar.
Lastly, the product also contains non-digestible prebiotic fibres, which aid in digestion by feeding the good intestinal bacteria, in turn improving the hormonal regulation of appetite.
An OptiBiotix-funded SlimBiome pilot study by Oxford Brookes University recruited 20 women aged 18 to 65, giving them either SlimBiome or placebo three times daily before each main meal for a duration of four weeks.
The researchers subsequently reported that SlimBiome may help control overeating by increasing satiety, reducing food cravings — including cravings for sugary foods — and lowering fat intake.
Two formats, three weeks
SlimBiome itself comes in sachets of ready-to-use, flavourless white powder, and can easily be added to beverages and soups.
To test its efficacy in finished products, however, OptiBiotix collaborated with Max Tomlinson, the founder of functional food brand GoFigure, to create a range of meal replacement shakes and flapjack energy bars; the former eventually bought the brand, which is now sold on its website.
Wood elaborated: "We used the shakes and bars that contained SlimBiome for a three-week '2-2-Go' weight management programme — customers were advised take two shakes (one as breakfast and one as lunch) and two bars (one as a mid-morning snack and one as an afternoon snack), and then have a healthy normal meal daily for a three-week period.
"That really helped to kick-start people being able to lose weight sensibly, and more importantly, maintaining their healthier weight."
In fact, a GoFigure consumer survey found that most of the participants (83%) reported feeling less hungry after supplementation, with all who stuck to the programme for over a week experiencing weight loss.
Slimming in South East Asia
As to whether OptiBiotix plans to supply SlimBiome to manufacturers or bring the GoFigure range to Indonesia, Vietnam and / or the Philippines, Wood did not give a definitive answer.
"When it came to the Philippines, the first thing people wanted to do was try the GoFigure diet. We'll be putting together a sales strategy and marketing ideas for the promotion of SlimBiome soon.
"We are looking at using a similar type of delivery method as GoFigure for these markets, because we feel that works very well. But since we've just signed the deal with CTC, I don't want to say too much right now."
She further said, "We are focusing on SlimBiome first because of the market needs at the moment, and we feel this is a really good product to work on with CTC Group first.
"After that, we will be open to launching more products in Asia. The idea is to work with our partners further on some of the products we have in the pipeline.
"We are in talks with some other groups at the moment in several countries across Asia, and there are some ongoing clinical trials I can't say too much about."
Additionally, Wood confirmed that OptiBiotix had prioritised a few Asian countries for expansion in the future, but was unable to disclose which countries these were.